Do electric motors work with both 110V and 230V mains?

Rob Keating

March 23, 2022

Do electric motors work with both 110V and 230V mains?

The general answer to this question is yes because electric motors are commonly used in every country on the planet. But if we look into the details, we can find some things to consider and to be aware of.

The simplest of motors – induction motors, are typically designed for 110V or 230V supply. Running them at other voltages will lead to huge inefficiencies and highly likely to total failure. Some have jumpers or switches to adjust the circuitry to the desired voltage level.

The motor itself is usually run at a different voltage to the grid supply. The controller changes the driving voltage to the desired level. BUT the motor controller makes all the difference here.  

Options:

Specific solution  
Utilise two different controllers, depending on the voltage supply in the market where the device is sold. One controller designed for 230V, the other for 110V grid supply, along with a voltage doubler circuit, so the motor side is approximately the same level as in the 230V controller model. This way, the motor can stay the same, and only the controller is specific.

One for all
Include an added automatic switch for the voltage doubler or additional items on the PCB (Printed Circuit Board), like a boost converter to make the controller run on every grid in the world. This also brings the power factor – like an expression of energy efficiency for AC power systems – to an exceptionally proficient level, close to 1.  

If a motor controller recognises the supply voltage being outside spec, then it will refuse to run.

So, which option?

When selecting the best option, many considerations must be made, including BOM cost, safety features, desired efficiency, cooling, envelope, compatibility, spare part cost and distribution, SKU numbers and more.

If the application is running on batteries, the motor was likely designed to run at the battery voltage – for example, 48V. Lower voltage means bigger diameter for the magnetic wire in the motor to accommodate the increased amperage.

If the product should be able to run on grid supply AND batteries, the system design and controller capabilities must be well thought through, because the range of voltage might require a different DC-DC converter topology to handle a bigger step-up in voltage.  

To sum up  

After investigating this we know the simple answer is yes, however as outlined in the two options above, there are some considerations to note. A specific solution using two controllers is sufficient in some cases, however the one for all solution may be preferable for widespread use and compatibility.  

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